Saturday, March 09, 2013

Railgate Revisited...For My Friend Mary.


Mary Mackie passed away a year ago this week.

If you're new around here, Mary, or 'BC Mary' as she called herself online, was the first local blogger who did all she could to push aside the massive billowing curtains of obfuscation in attempt to get to the hard, dark core at the center of all things Railgate.


Because she honestly and truly believe that something had been stolen from British Columbians and that a great subterfuge had been perpetrated to enable the stealing.

And Mary did this thing for years and years as an amateur (i.e. not an insider) who just paid attention and was both relentless and fearless.

And in doing this thing she left behind a massive, messy, Anon-O-Mouse comment-filled archive that shows up first on Teh Google if you type in 'The Legislature Raids'.

And I am pretty darned sure some kid somewhere will use Mary's archive to generate a PhD thesis that will later become the book that everybody will got to after they have read Mr. Tieleman's and/or Mr. Tsakumis' version(s).

And, for those that will scoff, it is important to remember that Mary did her thing when the thing was actually happening, in real time, not after the fact when it became so much easier to take runs at various folks and public figures that were no longer stomping, hard, on both the bodyPolitic and the proMedia with massive, corporatized and lawyered-up hob-nailed boots.

If you get my drift.


But enough of all that.

Because Mary was also my friend.

And I want to keep remembering her as such.

So, below, is a post from this time last year that I would like to share so that you can remember her too...

I first noticed this lady who called herself 'BC Mary' on the comment threads over at 'The Tyee'.

For all kinds of reasons.

And not just because we had similar world views.

Instead, what really interested me was the way she engaged the other commenters on those raucous threads in a meaningful way.

Just to be clear though, Mary never mollycoddled, backed-down, or suffered fools gladly. 

But she was always willing to listen if she decided that someone was speaking openly and honestly, regardless their point-of-view. Then she would ask them for evidence to support it.

And when she started her own blog she did the same thing with her own commenters.

And, as I was soon to learn, she did it with everyone.

And that included members of the media as well as members of the legislature.

And it included other bloggers.

Bloggers like me.

Because, as much as Mary did online at the 'The Legislature Raids', she did even more off-line.


I always loved hearing from Mary.

She was so darned collaborative that it was impossible not to be enthused by everything she suggested.

And she suggested a lot.

And she got folks together.

A lot more.

She also asked for help and advice early and often.

About all sorts of things.

One particular time she worked tirelessly with a gaggle of bloggers, commenters, and all manner of folks in the know that she had assembled, to vet a rumour.

It was a rumour that arrived on our doorsteps pretty late in the Basi/Virk trial saga, and it was a potential bombshell.

But it wasn't really all that plausible.

So Mary ran it down tirelessly over the course of a long weekend, and in the end we all decided not to bite.

And we were all the better for it.

Which is just my way of letting you know that Mary showed us that we could be both self-correcting and we could try to get things right.

Right from the start.


I know that criticisms have been levelled in some quarters that what Mary did was 'just' cutting and pasting.

Which is ridiculous on a whole lot of levels, but I will just deal with three of them here.

First, Mary wanted her site to be a living library were folks could go to get all sorts of information on Railgate that they could then sift through to find what they, themselves needed.

Second, and very importantly, in addition to the archiving, Mary also broke stories of her own, sometimes thanks to her legion of Anon-O-Mice on the comment threads, sometimes thanks to her contributors, and sometimes thanks to her own off-line digging. Just ask Ian Mulgrew, Lucinda Chodan, or Gary Mason, to name a few.

Third, Mary also inspired others to go off and break their own stories. All kinds of those were from Robin Mathews, of course. But the one I remember most came from Laila and G.A.B., who beat the proMedia like a gong for about a week when they realized and published the true significance of something that popped-up in the pre-trial courtroom just before the gag order came down.



Here's the real thing.

The really hard real thing about losing my friend...

Which is that, unlike most of the folks that will greatly miss the online 'B.C. Mary', I actually got to meet the real Mary Mackie in person.

And it was one of the most fun, rewarding and, yes, inspiring things I have ever done.


It was late on a Friday afternoon.

And the work week was done.

And I was 2,500 miles from home.

But I did not rush back to Pearson to climb back into the cigar tube as fast as I could, which is my usual way of doing things.

Instead, I strolled out of the downtown Toronto core with my bag slung over my shoulder and I went to visit Mary.

Her grandson was there at the house with her, and he was magnificent to put up with us for the next couple of hours as we talked, and talked, and talked some more about everything under the sun. 

Mostly we talked about Mary's cherished British Columbia - its people, its natural beauty, and its public institutions, all of which she held in the highest regard after a lifetime spent there doing all kinds of the most interesting things.

Then she asked me all about my family and, especially, what my kids were up to. After that it was her family. Then, and only then, did we talk a little about her illness.

Actually, I'd already given Mary as much advice as I could on that score given the business I'm. But on that particular day she didn't want advice. Instead, she just wanted to tell me about the great care she was getting at Princess Margaret Hospital, and how fantastic our Canadian medical system, that we all built and still own, still is.

After that we finally got down to brass-tacks and talked about the details of RailGate and all that needed to be done, and who had to be contacted, and what we thought really went down, and what we could still do to really and truly find out.

What, ultimately did go down, I mean.

Did I mention that this was a lady in her 80's who, on the afternoon that I stopped by for a quick visit, out of the blue, already knew she had terminal breast cancer?

Did I mention that this was one of the most inspiring things I have ever been a part of, ever?


Mary and I kept on corresponding until very recently.

Even though, over the last few months, I knew she really wasn't well.

I knew things had become really difficult for her when she told me last fall that she didn't like to talk on the phone anymore because her failing body just got in the way in a way you couldn't tell on-line or by Email.

And even after that she was still leaving me comments and sending me Emails through January and into February.

Which is fitting of course, because the comment threads, where the real action and discussion are, really were her favourite.

As were her commenters.

In fact, here is something she told one of her very best favourites, GWest, by Email, just before she died:

"...I'd love to think that one day, when my screen goes quiet completely, the commenters will come out and fill the space with what THEY know ..."

And here, finally, is the last thing I must to tell you about Mary, which is something very personal.

You see, she would never call me by real name years after she knew it.

Instead, she always called me by my screen name, RossK, because, as she told me once, that is how she thought of me, with a descriptive term of endearment in front of it (which I won't bother to tell you about because hurts far too much to type, much less say).

And with that I must close.

Because, while I will always miss and love you B.C. Mary, I will never say good-bye.



Laila also remembered Mary yesterday, which was fitting given the occasion...Her post is here...
I'll be back with more on Railgate, both then and now, over the next few days...



Anonymous said...

She was such an inspiration. I really do miss her.


Don F. said...

Mary was inspirational to many.
Her's was the first blog I ever commented on way back during the fake BC Rail trial. I was angry with how it proceeded with the nmerous recesses and lapses and this naturally led me to her. She taught me tolerance of other bloggers and to give each comment respect and that there is room for many to state different points of view on a subject and how it relates to each of us. She contacted me personally by email in times when my frustration was evident. I will never forget her council.
Thanks for remembering Ross!!

James King said...

Thanks Ross

RossK said...

Thanks all.

Railgate week coming right up!


Kim said...

It still makes me cry to read this post again.

I think of Mary often.

Thanks "RossK"